The Big Question: Should DJs Also Be Producers?

Phil Morse | Read time: 6 mins
dj dj career dj producer Pro producer
Last updated 5 April, 2018


David Morales made a huge career for himself as an excellent DJ and producer, but he thinks nowadays that the lines are blurred between the two, at the expense of both. Why, he asks, should DJs automatically have to be producers too for success?

So should DJs be producers? The debate has been reignited recently in replies to a Facebook post by legendary DJ/producer David Morales, who moaned that many DJs are making records just to get gigs, and the quality of DJing and producing is suffering as a result. Here’s what he said:

“Why are non-producer DJs forcing themselves to make records? Why? It’s the reason why there’s so much mediocre crap out there! It’s funny how a new DJ calls himself a remixer/producer without even making a record. But unfortunately DJs are ‘required’ to have a record charting in order to get recognised and get gigs. What a farce! There’s so many non-DJs getting paid just because they made a record, not because they’re a good DJ. The majority are crap! Can’t play beyond their programmed set. Duh! And the real DJs who don’t care or don’t need to make records are the ones who are suffering. What has happened to ‘the art’? Does anyone care? Obviously not! Shame.” – David Morales

What we think…

Our view is simple. DJing is an art. Producing is an art. They are different skills, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other, although it’s possible to do both well. You can have immense fun getting good at either skill, so wherever your passion is, you should go for it! Who cares where it ends up? There is always room at the top for the very best, if that’s what you turn out to be, but it’s the journey that’s important. And nobody should ever tell anyone not to have a go, or tat it’s not worth trying – period.

Producing music can be a great calling card for a DJ. When I was a promoter, I used to book people to DJ who were great producers and take a gamble they could DJ, simply because I loved their music. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t! We only rebooked those who could DJ…

The days of DJs getting international success through just DJing have long gone, but that absolutely doesn’t mean DJs can’t have rich and fulfilling careers. As long as “the music travels faster than the people who make it”, there will always be the need for DJs, and you can indeed be “famous in your own back yard” (and get paid for it) through DJing alone – the classic routes being either to become a club resident, or to promote your own small events you believe in and put yourself on the bill.

Of course, many DJs just like making people happy by playing popular music, and for those DJs, mobile, corporate, wedding work etc. is a great route to those “full dancefloor” moments.

We could go on, but there were some really interesting reactions (in the 700 replies to David’s post!) so we’ve collated some of the more interesting ones for you here. Do let us know what you think in the comments below this article…

Facebook reactions…

“I’ve been a DJ for 20 years and have always been frustrated that the only ones making it big are the ones making their own music, I’ve always said I’d do it but never have the time and dedication needed. Everyone is just following suit. But if anyone knows anything about music then they will always pick out the people with real talent and they will rise to the top. For a while at least, if they really are talented and continue to make bangers then they will stay on top, if they just got lucky with a one hit wonder then they will soon fade into the background again. If anything, the more DJs out there making shit music that all sounds the same, the better it is for the real artist, as the true talent will shine and be easier to spot” – Ben Whichelow

“Well said Mr Morales! This is the whole reason I stopped playing… I will admit I can’t play a single instrument but I can DJ, in fact I was once described as one of the best young DJs in Wolves (many years ago lol)… but because I’ve never produced a track nobody was interested in me, regardless of my DJing talent… and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon… I’ve been on an agency’s books for a while now but still can’t get a booking…” Glynn Webster

“Give me a crate of tunes to mix, I am well within my element, ask me to “make a tune” and I ain’t the slightest clue where to start, and quite frankly it’s not something I am rushing out to learn. My love of music comes from playing quality tunes, produced by quality producers, I am not afraid to say that I don’t fall into that category. I DJ because I love music, and I’m not too shabby at it, let DJs be DJs and leave the tune production side to the pros in that field.” – Darrell Cross

“Perhaps the new wave of producers are tired of the same producers making the same old sound. I’m all for new talent. Does it really matter if it’s by a musician or a DJ? I think not, if the crowd connect with it, then that’s what music is all about. If you connect with more people on the floor then more gigs come … Simple as that in my opinion.” – Chris Acheson

“People don’t give a shit how you mix or what you know about DJing, people want to hear your records, get crazy and drunk and have a good party. I’m a DJ and I don’t care how the DJ mixes and there are millions of people like me. I want to hear good music, I want to dance, and if you change a song every 30 seconds I will go out of the club. If I want to hear/see how a really good DJ mixes I’ll go to see a DMC competition.” – Alexis De La Cruz

“DJs are everything rolled into one now, promoter, graphic design, managers, tour managers, producers, sound engineers, roadies, tech guys, secretaries, but, sadly, this is what’s expected. A whole load of people do buy-ons, where they pay to play. I’ve been in bands all my life, and here in Spain, a DJ will get the same pay as a five piece band, hence, I turned to DJing as it was costing me to play in bands.” – Keith Bradshaw

“To be honest it’s always been pretty much the same… just different generations. The issue now is that you get some DJs (like Guetta, Avicii & Harris) who simply sell out to make more money who then don’t give a f___. This will always be there case. So called ‘big name’ DJs resort to making charty commercial dance to be heard by people who may not have heard their previous work. All in all you may consider yourself a ‘DJ’, but that does not make you a ‘producer’… and vice versa.” – Darren Lewis

“People care but it’s the ones in power that dictate. You can’t just be a DJ now because the industry doesn’t allow it, the only way to make a name for yourself is to sell records and the only way to get people to clubs or festivals is to have a line up of DJs that make records. It’s alright to come out with such a comment but where and what are any solutions? There ain’t none because the people that dictate are now too big, too powerful the precedent is too far gone to change” – Jimmy Lee

“The other problem is that some of the top 100 that call themselves DJ/producers have never produced a track in their lives. Ghost writers do it for them and don’t make as much money, so actually they are not worthy of the title DJ/producer…” – Gary Craig

“Here is another perspective and may only apply to the US. I’ve been a vinyl and CD DJ for many years. I started working in Las Vegas in 2010. After a few gigs the management told me that if I was to continue DJing in Vegas I would need to start producing tracks and successful ones at that. So after DJing for 20 years I was forced into producing. It seems the big corporate bodies are running the show and prefer ‘DJ Mag’-type DJs who produce and DJ… I hate producing but was forced into it…” – Evan Djevan Frangos

“This tide of mediocrity is slowly turning. The Walmartization of music (or EDM as the mindless suburban mass call) it is being mocked now and slowly there will be a return to DJs with skill and taste. Finally the press is catching on and writing stories about these frauds. Live Nation has destroyed music.” – Maxwell Blandford

“The new generation doesn’t care how great the previous one is. The ones calling the shots for years are now faced with a new breed making what you or I may not consider real music but I feel humbled to still be here enjoying the music and the DJ’s that I have know and supported including you David Morales.” – Brian Wilson

“The truth is club owners and promoters just want to make a buck. It doesn’t matter if you’re the real deal or making history with your set and through its journey, they’re still going to ask you ‘how many can you bring?’. We need to go back to real underground parties in small dark sweaty rooms. There’s where the magic always happened anyway!” – Mike Morales

“Moaning because nobody wants to book you after you let the scene die through the 2000s? Now it’s popular again everyone wants to have their say! Sneak and Morales are old men, let the kids have their fun, they don’t give a f___ about you any more, you’re yesterday’s DJ no matter how good you were at your peak. S___ moves on.” – John Smith

So what do you think? Do you want to DJ and make music? Or just one? Is there a problem nowadays, or is this just sour grapes? And does any of this matter or is the fun in just getting on with it and having a great time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Mixing For Mobile & Wedding DJs